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Absolutist Rule: the Compass Leading to Mid-Millennial Prosperity

In: Historical Events

Submitted By rshenkma
Words 1027
Pages 5
TA DJ James Marty
History 242; Section 8
1 February 2013
Absolutist Rule: the Compass leading to Mid-Millennial Prosperity Do people fear one another and live in a perpetual state of struggle and rivalry (Hobbes, 138)? France sure did seem to think so after having been a continual warzone for civil anarchists during the latter half of the sixteenth century (Bodin, 133). According to formidable writers of the time, such as Jean Bodin and Thomas Hobbes, the ability to maintain order in society required submitting to the supreme order of a state (Hobbes, 138). Sovereignty—or the absolute power and demand of a commonwealth—required complete obedience for a king because failure to revere him was considered a failure to revere the holy image of God at the time (Bodin, 134). In this age of Absolutism, divine power was given to sole leader of the monarchy, a controversial act that generated debate in which the second and third classes questioned sovereignty, politics, and their rights as citizens (Hobbes, 138). Ironically, royalists and antiroyalists alike did not support Hobbes’ great work of 1651 called Leviathan that described his idea about how supreme power, once delegated, was irrevocable; Parliament even believed it almost hinted at atheistic tendencies (Hobbes, 138). Nonetheless, Hobbes believed that today’s Golden Rule which states, “Do to others as we would be done to,” was not a natural passion of humankind and only seemed like a law of nature when under the terror of some power where people know they are being watched (Hobbes, 139). Hobbes defined the natural pre-societal man as cruel because his independence encouraged him to only look out for himself and family. Therefore, the civilized man should be the member of a large community that binds together under one common overseeing lawmaker to create a unity and, hence, greater protection from other threatening nations. This conviction was not so much related to God as it was to the idea of living life to its fullest and helping a country thrive and flourish (Hobbes, 139). Contrary to Hobbes’s definition of sovereignty, Jean Bodin’s definition of the word had to do with his search for religious truth (Bodin, 132). Hobbes’ focus was based more upon the idea of maintaining peace through the three tiers of society. Both writers, however, believed that the high powers of government were indivisible and not to be shared beyond the King and his advisors of the court (Bodin, 132-133). Predating Hobbes’ infamous Leviathan by nearly 80 years, Bodin’s Six livres de la republique included a spiritual theory that later highly influenced the creation of royal absolutism as we know it (Bodin, 132) . His work depicted the absolutist monarch to be a virtuous man who commits no crimes or wrongs, living by example. No subjects under their majesty during his lifetime can possibly be one hundred percent righteous and fair as him because that aspect is what makes a king different from them and more Godlike (Bodin, 134). A way in which Hobbes did appeal to the readers of his time was his conclusion using God as reason in which he claimed, “…to the consciences of sovereign assemblies, there being no court of natural justice but in the conscience only; where not man but God reigns whose laws, such of them as oblige all mankind, in respect of God as he is the author of nature are “natural” and in respect of the same God as he is king of kings are ‘laws’ (Hobbes, 143).” In absolute monarchy, was it lawful to nullify and repeal ordinances after a king’s death? This sort of mutiny was only allowed if the ruler was a tyrant: one who seized control of a state without being given that right by the Lord; royalty was a divine right. In Bodin’s opinion, such a man could be executed justly without any kind of trial. Killing the actual king of a land was worthy of immediate death because Bodin sincerely believed it was by no means acceptable (Bodin, 135). On the other hand, Hobbes does not exactly speak of anarchy, but he implies that the king should not be taken out of office; he should only be advised on how to better rule. If men have no one to follow, they are expected to go awry in their actions. The ability of how well a king can control their actions depends on the justice of his laws which usually is not a problem because “the law of nations and the law of nature is the same thing (Hobbes, 143).” How well a ruler leads his people was a human trait that Hobbes did attribute to monarchy, so for that reason, his work was just as highly controversial as that of Bodin’s during their times of publication. Conceptions and practices of power in the age of absolutism were clearly defined as a solution by Jean Bodin and Thomas Hobbes during a time in which anarchy led to years of war. The result of a people under the rule of a sole man ordained by God led to prosperity and the end of “uncivilized men” whose natural tendencies were sinful and opposed the views of Christianity and the Golden Rule. Both writers claimed that a holy leader should not lose his power by any means, but Bodin’s conviction was based on the idea that a king was all-knowing, while Hobbes believed that the flourishing of a king’s people was directly dependent on his lead by example—an idea that seemed almost devoid of religion. All the same, they somehow denoted absolute rule as divine. Bodin wrote, “Since there is nothing greater on earth, after God, than sovereign princes, and since they have been established by Him as His lieutenants for commanding other men, we need to be precise about their status so that we may respect and revere their majesty in complete obedience.” Leviathan and Six livres de la republique were sparked an uproar among those who desired more legal freedoms and privileges, but these two works served as the foundation to absolutist rule and the growing prosperity in the country of France.…...

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